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IOC steps back from esports, says talk of Olympic inclusion is “premature”

The IOC has poured cold water over building speculation that esports could become an Olympic sport in the near future, calling such conversations “premature”.

The topic was discussed by a group of senior IOC officials, led by president Thomas Bach, during the 7th Olympic Summit in Lausanne on Saturday 8 December.

While acknowledging that “the Olympic Movement should not ignore [esports’] growth”, the statement put out following the Summit also cited numerous “uncertainties” that continue to block esports’ path to Olympic acceptance, including the fragmentation and for-profit status of the industry, rapid evolution of the technology, and the violent nature of several high-profile esports games.

The IOC did encourage its member International Federations to continue to explore potential collaborations with the esports industry, particularly relating to sports simulation games such as EA Sports’ Fifa series.

The march of gaming’s progress towards Olympic acceptance is believed to have been stalled by the death of Patrick Baumann, the former IOC member who was one of esports’ strongest cheerleaders inside the Olympic movement, earlier this year.

In the long-term, the inclusion of esports as a medal event at the Olympic Games still appears to be an inevitability, as the IOC continues to attempt to engage younger audiences and introduce fresh commercial impetus to the Olympic movement.